The space-traveling neutralino is back at CERN

During his visit on 24 and 25 May, former CERN Fellow and ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang gave a soft-toy neutralino back to CERN’s Director for Research Sergio Bertolucci. In 2009, CERN’s Director-General Rolf Heuer had given Christer the neutralino to be part of his official flight kit, just before the astronaut began his second mission on space shuttle flight STS-128.


ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang (right) returns the neutralino to CERN Director for Research Sergio Bertolucci (left).

“The neutralino is a symbol of the link between particle physics and the science of the Universe,” said Rolf Heuer in his Word from the DG published in the Bulletin on that occasion.  “Neutralinos are theoretical particles that the LHC will be looking for, and if they exist, they’re strong candidates for the Universe’s dark matter.”

Today, the space-traveling neutralino from the Particle Zoo is back at CERN. At the colloquium he gave on 24 May, Christer, who is in charge of ESA’s scientific programme onboard the International Space Station, gave a detailed overview of the experiments that astronauts are currently carrying out. In particular, he presented the ALTEA experiment, which uses silicon strip detectors to measure the flux of ions inside the station; ACES (Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space), which will provide unprecedented global time accuracy and perform tests of Einstein’s general theory of relativity; and SpaceQUEST, which is proposed to test Bell inequalities for distances over 1000 km and a possible "decoherence" effect due to gravity.

During his two-day stay, Christer visited the ATLAS visitor centre, the CERN control centre and the AMS control room. He also gave a talk at the Lycée International de Ferney-Voltaire. “I was very happy to once again enjoy CERN’s nice atmosphere,” he said just before leaving CERN. “You can breathe science everywhere here! I would be very happy to have the opportunity to come back to CERN and - who knows? - to be able to carry out a common research programme here. I've discussed the possibility of joint ESA-CERN activities with the CERN Management with a view to strengthening the relationship between the two organisations.”

Welcome back neutralino, and we hope to again welcome back Christer!

For further information about this topic, please read:

1. Recording of and material on Christer's talk at CERN

2. Previously published Bulletin articles

3. The Courier Viewpoint

4. Video interviews

5. Quantum Diaries

by Antonella Del Rosso